Exercise 5.1 threw up a description of a ‘noirish’- if slightly offbeat - private detective’s office. I wanted this scene to be a pivotal point in a story. Eventually I decided to work backwards from it. Why would someone go to a ‘Psychic Dectective’? To find a ghost?
Seville is a great place for a mystery. History and the modern collide every day literally and metaphorically. The street names, as in most of Andalucia, can be as unashamedly named after Illusion, Happiness or Dreams, as a local notable.
I chose first person narration, a style-used in most of the novels of the type admired by the narrator. Four drafts chopped down the ‘telegraph poles’ along the route of the story, as advised in the coursebook .* The teacher turned bookseller is based on a Spanish high-school teacher I actually met in Seville. Expecting talk about Spanish literature, I heard about a fascination for Chandler. The narrator’s lottery win and bookshop are just a bit of wish fulfilment, a sort of ‘write what you’d like to know’ and was a reshaping of a 250 word fragment from my notebook.
I chose to set the time period of the story at six months after I conceived the outline plot; this may be a little too long for a short story. I kept much of the dialogue to a minimum, to move the story along. I did try to use dialogue at key points in the narrative: Leonore’s first appearance, writing her name and number on the card and, of course, the ending. This assignment has made me more aware than ever that I seem to be an instinctive writer, and I will have to be more disciplined when it comes to the ECA.
The ‘femme fatale’ is a stock figure in this kind of story, and I found it hard to avoid a stereotype, although the paperback’s illustration must be one. Her name is from Poe, he used it in an eponymous poem and in The Raven1, wherein a quite different visitor pays a call on someone lost in books.
I must confess to being influenced by books like The Dumas Club (Reverte),2 - whose writer’s name I stole for the Psychic Detective - which is about a hunt for a very different book. Originally the book was going to be a pure plot device. However, when I decided on the ending, that was no longer strictly true.
There had to be a reason to find such an unprepossessing book. One early draft had Franco writing it! Too surreal an idea! So, of course, Spain’s most famous surrealist made his appearance. Dali is a controversial figure for many reasons, but the one time communist did have close associations with Franco. According to one Spanish political commentator, Navarro (2003), Dalí sent telegrams to Franco, ‘praising him for signing death warrants for political prisoners.’ 3When the woman disappeared, I decided the book would turn up. But how? I experimented with a mysterious parcel posted from somewhere exotic. But then I hit on the idea of it being found by someone who couldn’t read. Once Curro couldn’t read, the ending, of course, was easy.
Well? Would you read it?
1. Public Domain Google Library
2. Peréz-Reverte, A.  (1993) El Club Dumas Alfaguara, Spain 1999
3. Navarro, V (2003) ‘The Jackboot of Dada, Salvador Dali, Fascist’ Counterpunch
(On-line) available from http://www.counterpunch.org/navarro12062003.html
[Posted 06/12/2003; Accessed 24/12/2007]